Although the serum bactericidal test is commonly used in the management of infective endocarditis, little has been written about its validity or limitations. We report three cases of gram-negative bacillary endocarditis (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Vibrio fetus and Serratia marcescens) encountered in 1 year at a Veterans Administration hospital. Serum bactericidal titers were considered necessary to identify inadequate antibiotic regimens or to avoid unnecessary drug toxicity. The limitations of the test, particularly those pertaining to gram-negative infections, are reviewed. Misleading results during treatment with aminoglycoside antibiotics could be due to the tendency of serum to become alkaline on standing. A detailed study of the interaction of the complement-dependent bactericidal system of serum with eight antibiotics is presented. In the context of the serum bactericidal test, the interaction was additive or synergistic in 15 of 16 determinations, indicating the need to include a control study of serum sensitivity of the infecting microorganism in each case.
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